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Exciting Derrick Jones Jr. presents a problem in making a roster spot for him

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Derrick Jones Jr. impressed Heat fans with athletic play, but he is still on a two-way contract.

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Miami Heat fans love the excitement Derrick Jones Jr. brings to the court, except the Heat have one long-term problem with him. He’s on a two-way contract and the Heat need to cut or trade a player to keep him for longer than a couple of weeks. Also players on two-way deals are not eligible for the playoffs.

Per Barry Jackson, Jones Jr. said Pat Riley had this advice for him, “He said whenever I get to play, go out there with a lot of energy and impact the game on the defensive end and let the offense come to me.”

Derrick also said, “Before I came here, I wasn’t making as many shots as I am now. Coaches have told me to keep my hands up higher and keep my hands on the ball before my feet are set so I’ll be able to shoot the ball right away. My game is at a different level and my confidence level is higher, and I feel a lot more comfortable playing the game now.”

While with the Phoenix Suns, he had the distinction to be on the youngest-ever starting lineup in the NBA.

“The Suns’ starting lineup Thursday night was the youngest ever for an NBA team, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

“Phoenix started Tyler Ulis (21), Devin Booker (20), Derrick Jones Jr. (20), Marquese Chriss (19) and Alex Len (23) -- who combined have an average age of 21 years, 14 days.

“How young is that?

“According to ESPN Stats & Information, the average is younger than all but one of the eight teams that played in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. Only Purdue -- at 20 years, 265 days -- was younger.”

To get a better idea of what Portland Trail Blazers fans thought of DJJ’s fit when Phoenix released him, commenters on Blazer’s Edge wrote,

“He’s another Harkless, the comments online about the Dude is he’s basically high flyer but 1 dimensional player we already have a few of those. At best he could maybe become Will Barton 2.0 lite. IMHO”

“I’m kind of tired of the Blazer “Dollar Tree” bargain moves. It’s OK to take flyers on marginal players, find undervalued talent, play moneyball with the line-up to an extent. It’s OK to get Ketchup at The Dollar Store. If you are planning and stocking your entire holiday meal at The Dollar Store? There’s something wrong. But The Blazers I think have easily reached a point where another “good” player or potentially good player isn’t going to really help.”

The Suns reddit blog comments noted,

“A lot of people are confused onto what kind of creature Derrick Jones Jr. is. As someone who has followed him this season and been to a few NAS games I think I can answer some questions.

“He is an awfully terrible shooter from 3 hence the 26% shooting from 3. Some games he does show life from 3 where he sinks some shots. From mid-range he is much better (56% from 2pt range).

“His athleticism is extremely good he can fly with the best in the league. He is one of the best dunkers in the league. If he can build his game around his athleticism and build a shot he can be a decent starter in the league.

“On Defense he is an average or above average player already. in the d-league he is averaging 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks a game. This is in part of his athleticism and just being a good defensive player.

“His potential is about a serviceable starter/ 4th or 5th option on a contender player (J.R. Smith, Andrew Bogut, JJ Redick tier) but what do we know he has played like 10 minutes in total the entire season so there is a lot to see.

“tldr; raw Andrew Wiggins with poor shooting and above average defense.”

(tldr; too long didn’t read; summary)

Those are the observations from people who have some experience with DJJ on more than a week’s look. On the surface DJJ seems like an overlooked gem. Historically though undrafted players don’t make All-NBA teams.

The question is whether Derrick Jones Jr. is the WHALE Miami needs to move the needle. Filling the roster with good players produces a good team.